The Maxwell Trial; Day 30; Accountant faces criticism

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The Independent Online

Financial Correspondent

Remarks made by the accountant Ian Huntingdon about Robert Maxwell's business methods were criticised at an Old Bailey fraud trial yesterday.

Mr Huntingdon, a former assistant director of the Serious Fraud Squad who had been involved in the Maxwell investigation, was said to have made comments that were published in the accountancy magazine Fighting Fraud.

Mr Alun Jones QC, defending the tycoon's son, Kevin, asked if the comments suggested Robert Maxwell "had been engaged in fraud". Mr Huntingdon, a partner with KPMG, replied: "It is capable of being read that way. But it does not make a statement as such."

Counsel then asked another accountant if Mr Huntingdon should have said anything at all when he knew there was a trial pending at which the guilt or innocence of Robert Maxwell was at issue. "I expect the person concerned wished he had not done it," replied Mr Keith Woodley, president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. Mr Woodley, who stressed that he was giving evidence in a private capacity, was called as an accountancy expert to advise the jury on the duties and responsibilities of company directors and auditors.

Shown the accounts for the Robert Maxwell Group for the year to 31 December 1990, he said that they indicated that from a cash-flow point of view the company was under "financial strain" even though the assets were considerably in excess of the debts. The trial was adjourned until today.